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Art theory Oil Painting Painting People Portrait

Quinceanera Party Boy and When to Stop Painting

Quinceanera Party Boy, oil on panel, 14x11"
Quinceanera Party Boy, oil on panel, 14x11"

When I saw the photo I’d taken of this boy at the Legion of Honor where he was posing for his sister’s Quinceanera party photos, I knew I had to paint him (see my original blog post about that day). He is such a beautiful boy.

When to Stop Painting
Lately I’ve been focusing all of my art time on oil painting, and discovered something that might be of interest to other painters.

One night I’d been painting into the wee hours, trying to “fix” a painting. I’d put on paint, step back, then scrape it off. When I realized I didn’t know why I was doing anything I was doing, I went to bed, frustrated that after hours of painting I’d accomplished very little and in fact, probably just made things worse.

The next day I was driving to a plein air paint-out using my GPS to get me to cross streets near the destination (a little park with no address). Once I passed those cross streets, my GPS began scrolling the words “Driving….driving….driving” on the screen because it no longer had any directions for me—I’d passed the target with no further plan.

That’s when it hit me: When I’m at the point with a painting where I am just driving….driving…driving (or dabbing, scraping, dabbing) I need to STOP.

Without a conscious and specific intention (make this area cooler, warmer, darker, lighter, bigger, smaller, sharper, softer, etc.) and an overall goal, it’s just like trying to reach a general idea of a destination by driving mindlessly and randomly, hoping I’ll get there. Not too likely.